Exploring the Dynamics of the Looming Jersey City Mayor and Council Race

Fulop announced a partial slate on Wednesday

9. The Jersey City Mayor’s Race. This November will be the first time that Jersey City’s municipal elections will be held in November, a fact that comes much to the dismay of declared challenger Bill Matsikoudis, one of the most vocal opponents to the referendum to move elections earlier this year. Matsikoudis—along with ex-Assemblyman Charles Mainor and likely others—will face off against incumbent Mayor Steve Fulop (pictured).

Jersey City Mayor Steve Fulop announced a partial slate of candidates on Wednesday. Alyana Alfaro for Observer

Three months after Fulop’s announcement that he was backing former U.S. Ambassador to Germany Phil Murphy for New Jersey governor and pursuing re-election to his own position as Jersey City mayor,  Fulop is going full-steam-ahead into the city’s November contest.

Lavarro is city council president.

Lavarro is city council president. Max Pizarro

In Jersey City, all of the city council seats are up for re-election this November. On Wednesday, Fulop announced a partial slate of city council candidates christened “Team Fulop.” So far, Fulop’s slate features four incumbent city councilors including all three at-large council members—Council President Rolando Lavarro, Councilwoman Joyce Watterman and Councilman Daniel Rivera—as well as Ward E Councilwoman Candice Osborne.

“I am proud to announce part of our 2017 slate and I am excited to have these incredibly qualified council members represent our team in November’s municipal election,” said Fulop in a statement announcing Team Fulop. “As members of the council, they have shown a tireless dedication to serving Jersey City residents, each and every day…Together, we will continue to push Jersey City forward.”

However, while the four members of Team Fulop announced so far are incumbent council members, there are five city council seats not aligned with Fulop’s re-election campaign. Among those councilors who are not yet declared for Fulop is Ward D Councilman Michael Yun who is currently toying with his own mayoral run but says he will not make his decision to run for mayor or council known until around March. He said that, regardless of affiliation with the incumbent mayor, the council races will be decided on the records of those who decide to run.

“That is his choice but he has to look at what the people want,” Yun said of Fulop. “He can make any commitment, he can make any choice. But more important is what the people think about their service as councilperson over the past years.”

Like Yun, Ward C Councilman Richard Boggiano is also rumored to be weighing a mayoral run but has yet to announce his intentions for November.

According to a source, while Ward A Councilman Frank Gajewski ran with Fulop’s slate in 2012, the councilman may be looking toward retirement after his term ends. In Ward F, Councilwoman Diane Coleman recently stepped down due to her November 2016 election as county register. Coleman was a Fulop ally but the council is currently looking for her replacement. When Ward B Councilman Chris Gadsen won in November 2016 in a special election, it was not as a Fulop ally, making his future with Fulop’s mayoral slate unknown. In November, Gadsen beat out Fulop’s pick for the seat, John Hallanan, by a narrow margin.

Matsikoudis

Matsikoudis is challenging Fulop. Max Pizarro for Observer

When contacted about Fulop’s slate announcement, declared mayoral challenger Bill Matsikoudis released the following statement: “I like all of these council members personally, but they have proven to be beholden to Steve Fulop on every issue… These council members have supported Fulop policies that are bad for Jersey City and they need to be replaced.”

Matsikoudis—a lawyer who was a vocal Fulop opponent on the recently passed referendum that shifted elections from May to November—said that that he intends to put together a slate of his own.

“I am meeting and talking to people who are potential candidates and I absolutely intend on having a full slate of candidates,” Matsikoudis said. “We are going to be populating our ticket over a period of months with the goal of having it complete by late spring/early summer.”

Former Assemblyman Charles Mainor has also announced that he will be pursuing the position of Jersey City mayor in 2017. He also has not announced a slate.

Fulop will likely announce additions to his slate in coming months. Whoever runs against Team Fulop will have an uphill battle due to Fulop’s fundraising potential and the support his team will likely receive from state and Hudson County Democratic Party leaders.

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